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State to host Aug. 16 groundbreaking for South Denali recreational facilities

(Anchorage, AK) – The public is invited to attend a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 16 for the construction of a South Denali campground and day-use area. The project includes parking and trailhead access to more than six miles of new hiking trails at the base of Curry Ridge in Denali State Park.

The ceremony will be held at Mile 135 of the Parks Highway and it will include participation from local, state, federal and private-sector officials.

“This is an exciting step forward,” said Alaska State Parks Director Ben Ellis. “After years and years of talking, we are taking the first steps to open new recreational opportunities and public access to our state park lands south of Denali.”

A major boon to the project was the private land donation of 104 acres by United Companies Inc., LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sea Lion Corp., the village corporation for Hooper Bay. The donation was finalized in April 2013. The donated land is valued at $1 million and it provides access for the future development of a South Denali Visitor Center. UCI’s donation will be highlighted during the groundbreaking ceremony.

“Our village of Hooper Bay may be located far from the project but we will see long-term benefits to both the village as well as the State of Alaska,” said Myron Naneng, president and chief executive officer of Sea Lion Corp. The benefit to the village corporation is improved access to its private lands for future tourism-related development.

“Working with Sea Lion Corp. and its subsidiary UCI is an excellent example of a public-private partnership that will enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for Alaskans and our guests while providing business opportunities in support of that outdoor recreation,” Ellis said.

The groundbreaking kicks off the construction of a 1.5-mile access road, a 22-space parking lot/trailhead, more than six miles of interpretive trails, a 15-site walk-in tent campground, a 32-site RV campground with electrical hookups, a ranger station and maintenance facility, and the extension of the electrical grid along the Parks Highway to Mile 134. The road, campground and electrical extension are scheduled to be completed by late summer or fall of 2014. Funding sources for this work included legislative appropriations and private-sector donations.

The State has been working to develop a visitor center complex on the south side of the Alaska Range with project partners including the National Park Service, Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Princess Cruises. Development of the proposed visitor center is still in the planning, design and funding stages.

For more information, contact David Griffin, Project Coordinator in the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation at 907-269-8696 or david.griffin@alaska.gov.

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